It’s Monday again. I appreciate you subscribing to my weekly newsletter, Mindful Mondays with Arijit. This week’s letter explores the workday shutdown ritual. I will discuss how Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’ helped me achieve satisfaction at work.
Up until a few months ago, the usual workday for me was to sit in front of the computer, write down everything I had to get done that day, check my email, and get overwhelmed by all the new messages in my inbox. After team meetings, I used to spend a lot of time on important, but not urgent, tasks from the discussion. In the end, I used to feel guilty for not making enough progress on my planned to-do list. It used to push me to work late, even beyond the point of optimal productivity, as I never felt like I had accomplished ‘enough’.
My workdays used to end with me feeling stressed and anxious because I was not getting things done. Then I learned about the workday shutdown ritual. The bestselling author Cal Newport emphasizes the benefits of ending every workday the same way in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. The ritual signals our brain to switch off from work-related thoughts and rest until the following workday morning.
Shutdown rituals are a set of actions performed at the end of each workday to acknowledge the work that was completed. An important part of the shutdown ritual is to review and reschedule any unfinished tasks. There are always some tasks on our to-do list that we can’t seem to cross off. Those tasks usually get stuck in a procrastination loop. I will discuss the procrastination loop another time. The shutdown ritual can aid us in prioritizing tasks and understanding what we must accomplish, and when.
It used to be that I only felt accomplished when I completed something. Not all tasks can be accomplished in a day or a few hours. Simply because a task is still being accomplished doesn’t mean it should be discounted. Each minute spent on a particular task is one step forward. It’s the sort of thing I tend to overlook. Now that I keep track of my time at the end of each day, I can reflect on what I have accomplished.
I found that shutdown rituals have helped me achieve three key objectives: 1) getting rid of work worries, 2) reassessing my accomplishments, and 3) defining my next workday. Having said that, here is what my shutdown ritual looks like.
Work Shutdown Checklists
- Reconcile timesheet
- Check email for anything requiring an urgent response
- Update Basecamp (delegate tasks to team)
- Check and update calendar for next workday
- Add new/pending tasks to the to-do list
It has become increasingly difficult for us to separate our work and personal lives since we work remotely. When we work from home we don’t have to pack up or say goodbye to colleagues at the end of the workday. Remote work allows things to overlap. As a consequence, we need to be more disciplined about defining boundaries. Work shutdown ritual is one way to do this. Do you follow any work shutdown rituals? Let me know.
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